A TV CHEF who opened up a Lyme Regis restaurant in the midst of the pandemic has spoken of her disappointment in the lack of support she has received from the government - having not been declared eligible for the furlough scheme for two consecutive lockdowns.

Robin Wylde opened its doors on October 28, 2020, a week before the second national lockdown was announced. The restaurant was then briefly able to reopen for just under a month, before closing once more when Dorset was put into Tier 3 on New Year's Eve.

Owner Harriet Mansell, has written to government officials in the hope her staff can access the Job Retention Scheme. They have not been able to access the scheme during either lockdown, despite employees' contracts commencing in September, something Miss Mansell puts down to an 'accountancy mistake'.

She said contracts of full-time staff commenced on September 21, but were not registered by the restaurant's accountants until November 1. Workers not registered by October 30 are not eligible for furlough.

Miss Mansell said: "We have received no help from the government. I have full-time employees on a salary which cannot be furloughed. They should all be eligible, they hit all the criteria, but unfortunately due to a mistake I am being penalised. It's fairly miserable and bleak when I look at it, we've fallen through the net for every grant throughout the past year.

"It's led to a new business really suffering in such a difficult time."

During the November lockdown, Miss Mansell was able to continue to pay her employees' salary, something she says put a lot of pressure on her financially and won't be feasible going forward.

Beginning their employment in September, the restaurant's full-time employees remain ineligible for furlough despite an ongoing claim with the HMRC.

She added: "I am at the most vulnerable and financially exposed moment of having just started a business with debts to juggle and no incoming cashflow or trading opportunity. I have no resources to continue to offer jobs to my employees

"I do not have the funds to pay for employees to work in a restaurant that is not open. I created jobs for people who previously lost their jobs through the pandemic. These people are pivotal to the success and reopening of my business.

"They have financial requirements to live and I am not financially able to retain their positions."

Despite only being able to open for a month in 2020, Robin Wylde made an impression on the public, praised in Trip Advisor's ratings with a five-star review average.